Posts filed under ‘introspection illusion’

Cool Ben Franklin quote!

“So convenient a thing is it to be a rational creature, since it enables us to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to.”
Ben Franklin

As De Bono says, it’s the intelligent people who have to watch out, because they can use their smarts to construct plausible (to them and others) stories of their motives and actions. Rationalisation!


February 20, 2011 at 6:59 am Leave a comment

Test Four: Personal Behavior Inventory

The “Personal Behaviour Inventory” is a 29 item, 5 point Likert scale test devised by a guy called Barry Collins.
You end up with a score for your Other-Direction, Inner Direction, Lack of Constrains on Behavior and Predictability of Behavior, all of which are independent of each other. This is, according to Janda, progress on the initial idea of an “Internal” and “External” Locus of Control.

I for one remain to be convinced.

According to this I am not very “other directed”, even less “inner directed”, have fewer “Constraints on Behavior” than 85% of the population (who knew?) and am not terribly predictable (30%).  (Usual disclaimers apply).

It’s this sort of test, now that I am four tests into the book, that make me wonder if the test-makers might want to revisit their certainties in response to Emily Pronin’s excellent and disconcerting work on what she has labelled the “Introspection Illusion.”

And these questions are so difficult to answer on a Likert scale. Half the time you are thinking “well, depends”. Nature of the questionnaire beast, innit?

Other links

January 9, 2011 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

Looking deep inside might tell you little…

A few months ago I read

“Alone in a Crowd of Sheep: Asymmetric Perceptions of Conformity and Their Roots in an Introspection Illusion” from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92, 4, 585-595
The take home message is that we – none of us –  are willing/able to admit that we are influenced by those around us/advertising/trends. Even when primed to do so, given permission by the experimenters.  It’s just too embarrassing to be one of the sheeple…


Study 1: Perceptions of Social Influence in Varied Domains

Study 2: Framing the Impact of Social Influence on Trendy Purchases

“Across the two desirability conditions, participants perceived themselves as having been less socially influenced than their peers in their iPod acquisitions. Moreover, this effect emerged both when conformity was described as undesirable and when it was described as desirable. Indeed, there was no difference between the two conditions in participants’ denial of their relative conformity.
Participants in this study thought that their own trendy purchases were less the result of social influence than the purchases of their fellow students. And, their denials of personal conformity persisted even when that conformity was framed as socially desirable. The results of this study, combined with those of Study 1, suggest that social desirability alone does not fully account for people’s blind spot to their conformity. We suggest that another reason is that people consider introspective information more than observable behaviour when assessing their own (relative to others’) conformity, despite the frequently nonconscious nature of social influence. In the studies that follow, we more directly test this hypothesis about underlying mechanism.

Translation: (We think) we know what’s going on in our own heads. We assume other people are more likely to be dupes. Nobody likes to think they are victims of larger social forces…

We have suggested that the observed self-other asymmetry in perceptions of conformity and susceptibility to social influence is afforded by a self-other asymmetry in the cognitive processes that people use to make judgments about self versus other. We refer to this latter asymmetry as an introspection illusion. It involves a tendency for actors, more than observers, to focus on introspective information and neglect behavioural information. Several studies in this article provide evidence for this illusion and for its influence on perceptions of conformity.

The introspection illusion involves a tendency for people to weight thoughts more for self than others and to weight behavior less. Because conformity is generally defined in terms of behavior, people’s strong reliance on their thoughts at the expense of consulting their actions is noteworthy. By disregarding their behavior, our participants failed to detect something about themselves that most outsiders could easily see. Although considerations of introspections versus actions are often inextricably linked, in this research, participants’ willingness to ignore their own behavior is perhaps even more surprising than their faith in the value of their introspections. Although the term introspection illusion emphasizes self-other differences in the faith that people place in their introspections, a necessary component of it involves the neglect with which people treat their own behaviors. The concepts of an introspection illusion and of what might be called “behavioral disregard” are in this way two sides of a coin.

“In future research it would be interesting to examine whether people in more interdependent cultures such as East Asian cultures, in which conscious thoughts about conformity are more common, would be less likely to deny their own susceptibility to social influence.”

Take home – “Know thyself” is trickier than just lookin’ inside…


Study 3: The Introspection Illusion and Perceptions of Peer Influence

Study 4: Available Introspections and Perceptions of Voting with the Party

This isn’t just about willingness/ability to attribute false consciousness to others. Trickier to ‘admit’ false consciousness in self!!


the results “suggest that the relevant asymmetry in conformity perception is likely to involve an interplay of motivational processes (involving a desire to disavow negative traits) and cognitive processes (involving weighting of introspective vs behavioral information). Though our participants were likely motivated to see themselves in a positive light by denying their susceptibility to unwanted social influence (and, perhaps, claiming their susceptibility to desirable social influence), their efforts were likely constrained by their illusions about the value of their own introspections.

Questions; What are the stories we tell ourselves (and each other) about our place in the Universe? Why do we tell one story over another? Where do we get these stories from? What facts of biography, sociography, geography, demography make some stories a more attractive/”better fit” than others? Do stories change over time? Why? How? Which stories are adaptive, or maladaptive?


We used to have a store of stories to draw upon (Christianity, even Shakespeare). “The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak” etc. Now what do we have? Bland sitcoms and half-remembered sporting events. Where’s the common narrative(s), the shared metaphors. Gone, baby, gone…


Further reading

Kruger, J and Gilovich T (2004) Actions, intentions, and self-assessment: The road to self-enhancement is paved with good intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 328-339. (I had a look at the abstract – basically, we cut ourselves a lot of slack for our (not done) good intentions.  We aren’t so generous with other people. Colour me amazed…)

November 25, 2010 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

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